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Brazen bear breaks into Auburn canyon-rim home for food

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Bears are no stranger to Auburn’s canyon rim residents but one neighborhood is on high alert after a brazen bruin’s midday house break-in today. Silver Bend Way resident Bobby Morse said he spotted the 6-foot-tall bear around 12:30 p.m. eating dog biscuits it had taken after entering a home on the acreage he works at as a gardener. The bear was sitting nonchalantly against a tree eating the contents of a package it had taken from a nearby rental home after removing the screen on an open, ground-floor window to gain entry, Morse said. Equally unsettling to Morse, the bear didn’t budge as he yelled at it and banged on a piece of sheet metal in an attempt to scare it away. The bear eventually did lumber off, pausing to climb a tree for a short time before disappearing into the wildland in the American River Canyon below. The canyon is part of the Auburn State Recreation Area park. Wes Burris, who also lives on Silver Bend Way, said it’s normal for neighborhood residents to observe bears, deer and even mountain lions passing through the area, near the Foresthill exit off Interstate 80. But it’s not normal to see the same bear walking around during the daytime – as the light brown bear that broke into the home today has recently been doing regularly, he said. “I’m not going to shoot it,” Burris said. “But Fish and Game said they would trap it. I just hate to be the one turning it in. The best thing that could happen is if it went off into the wilderness and we never saw it again.” Burris said he’s alerting neighbors in the surrounding area to the possibility that the bear might attempt more home break-ins. Dana Michaels, state Department of Fish and Game spokeswoman, said that reports of bears breaking into homes have been rare in the foothills. “But we get a lot breaking into homes in Tahoe,” she said. “It’s because so many people are careless or ignorant enough to feed bears or leave dog food out. The bears start associating easy meals with homes and humans.” Burris said garbage on his property is left to be taken out the night before, or on the morning of, trash pickup day. As a result, he doesn’t see that as a starting point for the bear’s new, bolder food-gathering tactic. The bear had found the dog biscuits on top of a refrigerator and broken a ceramic dish in its haste to secure the food. With hibernation season coming on and instincts in bears to store more fat for the winter, they eat more at this time of year, Michaels said. California is dealing with its largest population of black bears ever, according to Fish and Game estimates. Recently released figures indicate 40,000 black bears are living in California’s wilderness and on the outskirts of communities like Auburn. Michaels said that if the bear that broke into the Auburn home today is captured, biologists and wardens will determine whether it is fit to return to the wild. One of the main factors in that decision will be whether it has grown too comfortable around humans and shows no fear, she said. While a bear may seem docile at one moment, its survival instincts can take over at any time. If a human is nearby, it could attack, she said. Michaels said one video shown to fish and game employees to illustrate how unpredictable a bear can be shows a bear docile and running away from a restaurant employee. In the next segment, at another time, it’s seen rearing up on its hind legs and taking a slash out of the man with its claws. “They are wild animals and we tend to forget they have instincts for self-preservation,” Michaels said. Morse said he’s already taking his own self-preservation measures in case the bear returns. “If it wants a pathway to walk, it can use the property, but not stop in for a smorgasbord,” he said. “I’ve left my door open at night but now I’m thinking twice.”